(Semi) Guilty Pleasures
I spent another leisurely Sunday with the dogs, avoiding my meter-long to do list and instead reveling in life’s little pleasures. It was an incomparably beautiful day, warm and sunny – perhaps even 80+ degrees again (I think we’re still safely under a dozen so far this year), but with a lovely gentle breeze as compared to last weekend’s oppressive stillness and humidity. There is some guilt with this slow day, but there is also the importance of stopping to smell the proverbial roses, to recharge and renew, and bask if possible. Henry James’ quote comes to mind “Summer afternoon. . .the two most beautiful words in the English language.” I am a firm believer in soaking up the goodness, enjoying the moment, call it what you will – some may say lazy – but this nourishing of the senses, of the spirit, is as important as the nourishing of the physical body.
So yes, I’m having a lazy Sunday, which I “shouldn’t” be indulging in when there is so much to do. It’s a day filled with golden moments and I’m not inclined to do much more than soak them in. The obvious golden is the sunshine and warmth. The other golden moments, which occur regardless of the sunshine (though are greatly enhanced by it…as is nearly everything in life) are the little things. Watching the sheep gambol in the pasture in the evening sun, or little Pebbles standing upright on her hind legs, trying to reach a delicious leaf or vine just out of reach. I don’t see the other sheep do that like she does, and though she is a bit of a midget in comparison to them, I think it has more to do with personality than size. The two horned boys are back from their “summer job” and the flock is whole again. I won’t say I missed them, and am glad they were grazing elsewhere (Bo is positively round with fat) so my pasture wasn’t overgrazed, but their brother Conan, stuck here with Pebbles and Cinnamon for two months, was obviously glad to see them.
Watching the dogs run and play is another bit of gold. Little Pal is the champion here, running full tilt as he does. He has so many trails worn throughout the property – the woods are a network of them and in my mind greatly enhance things. As does he. I recently celebrated his “Gotcha Day” – it was one year ago this month that he came to live with us. He’s a grand little dog, sweet and energetic, gentle and driven, cuddly and busy – a lot of contradictions to be sure, but one great canine. Daisy – right now Lazy Daisy, as she dozes through the heat of the afternoon – is growing and filling out. It’s been three months now and she’s made heaps of progress in manners and obedience. And my darling Farley, now the old man of the house (only about 7 years old), continues to warm my heart with his antics. He and I went blackberry picking today in the midday heat. I only got a gallon of blackberries picked before I took him to the river to cool his feet in the water (he’s not a swimmer). It was a nice little outing with my best guy.
The bees continue to make me happy. On these warm days the hive is abuzz with activity – I now truly understand all those bee-themed expressions in our language. Busy as a bee is so overused, yet nothing quite prepares you for the truth behind the phrase. They are hopping with activity, enjoying the warm sun and summer flowers. There are so many bees flying in and out at midday (when the sun is beaming on the hive) I’m not sure how they keep it all straight. A 10 foot area around the hive is the bee fly-zone, and up into the air at least 20 feet as they spiral out into the world on their flights, dozens at a time. I don’t know why seeing this gives me such deep pleasure, but I could sit and watch it for hours. (I sort of already do.) The blackberry bloom is over and they are on to knotweed (an invasive species that the bees just cover at bloom time), clover and other late summer blooms – they adore the borage I’m growing in the garden. I knew I loved borage! I’m loathe to do a hive inspection, as it’s such a lot of work AND so intrusive and disruptive. I hate disturbing them so much, and a good inspection by its nature is a huge invasion. But I do need to get in there and see what’s new, do some mite control, maybe harvest a frame or two of honey and move a few frames around so they draw out as much comb as possible in preparation for winter. I need at least 10 frames of capped honeycomb for them to make it through the winter without too much supplemental feeding. I’ll likely put sugar syrup in there this fall, just to cover all the bases.
The garden is still booming, producing enough for a family of five, and the continuous production has been a delight – even a bit of a thrill. There’s just something so life affirming about going out to grab a handful of kale leaves to braise for dinner and coming inside 45 minutes later with a pound of green beans and a couple pounds of carrots in the makeshift basket of your t-shirt pulled out, not to mention the mound of lettuce “thinnings” obscuring the basket of eggs you’ve just collected from the chickens. I’ve been giving away plenty of kale and chard, zucchini, beets and green beans. I picked several pounds of zucchini tonight that I’m bringing to work tomorrow, plus the two oversized monsters I cut up and tossed to the chickens. The lettuce is beginning to slow down and I should be finishing up this first harvest about the time the second plantings become ready to pick and eat. Same with the kale and chard. My radicchio is odd – it doesn’t look or taste anything like what you see in the store and I’m wondering if there’s been some kind of mistake at the seed company. I’ve never grown it before but am really beginning to wonder what it is I’m eating. The pumpkins are setting plenty of fruit, and I have several delicata squash growing too. I even discovered a volunteer cucumber plant, with some good sized cukes already developing. My rutabagas look like something from the tropics –their greenery is huge and the roots the size of grapefruit. One of my potato plants succumbed to something – perhaps blight, but more likely some kind of rot in the root. My dillweed plants are also struggling with some sort of blight. They are pretty much toast at this point, but since they were an accidental planting there were no expectations in the first place. Good to know about the blight though.
Bear and cougar are in the area. A friend told me about a cougar making the rounds a few miles away. It’s the one carnivore that worries me in this area – there isn’t much that will keep out a cougar looking for an easy meal of mutton. I’m pretty sure Pal and I scared off a bear the other evening. Lots of cracking branches out back (on the other side of the fence, thankfully) and when Pal and I went to investigate he got VERY excited, as did Farley when I called him over to help patrol (stinky dog smell to repel the bear?). I heard a dog barking in the distance up on the ridge a few minutes later. I suppose it could have been a deer, but from my experience last year with the bear, they make a lot more noise. There are tons of downed branches out there, so it’s next to impossible to traverse without making some noise (even for the deer), but this was nearly human-loud. Hopefully we scared it enough, and the dog smell is strong enough, that s/he won’t come back. I’ve been careful about all my attractants, even sending vegetable garden trimmings off property in yard waste rather than composting as I’d prefer. If the dogs want to eat it I figure a bear would too. But there is that little matter of a beehive filled with honey sitting in my front yard. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and glad that Pal is keeping the fence patrolled well enough; he likes to defecate along the back fence – I always leave it when he does it back there, hoping it will deter these kinds of visitors.